The hot days of summer are upon us, and that can only mean one thing for farmers and ranchers alike – Hay. Hay provides a quality forage for the calves and cows to eat during the winter months.
Haying for anyone growing up on a farm is looked upon with fond memories of hard work in summer’s heat. Most will still be able to smell that sweet alfalfa smell that you get from new bales, or feel the stubble of the hay field on your legs.
How to ‘Make Hay’
In the last 50 years hay production equipment has evolved – but the production method remains the same: We grow alfalfa-grass mix fields (like a giant lawn). Once the alfalfa is *hopefully* waist high and in bloom, we cut it into a long line called a swath. There it sits and dries for a number of days (approximately 3-4). Once the grass is dry it is called hay, and we roll it into a bale.
Haying equipment is the biggest variable from farm to farm. At Grant Ranch we rely on a swather and a discbine to cut the majority of grass.
A swather looks like a backwards tractor. It pushes its cutting bar through the field and drives over the swath. The discbine uses rotating blades (discs) to cut. It is an implement pulled behind a tractor.
After the grass has dried and is now considered hay, we use a rake to pull to rows of swath into one. This helps to make baling more efficient because there are fewer rows to pick up.
Finally, the baler does our dirty work. The baler, also pulled by a tractor, picks up the swath and rolls it into a tight bale. It is then wrapped with either a net or string to secure it as it is released from the back .
Baling at night is often common place in the southwest. This is because we are trying to maintain the perfect balance of moisture in the hay. Late into the night brings a dew that we often lack in the dry climate. The equilibrium of moisture is a science. If a bale has too much moisture, the bale will spoil, and be unsuitable feed for the cattle over the winter. If there is not enough moisture while baling the leaves of alfalfa and other grasses will break off, therefore decreasing its nutritional value.
Please enjoy one of our favourite Peterson Farm Bro parodies “Bale” to see some of the equipment we mention hard at work!